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The Optics of LifeA Biologist's Guide to Light in Nature$
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Sönke Johnsen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691139906

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691139906.001.0001

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(p.181) Chapter Seven Fluorescence
The Optics of Life

Sönke Johnsen

Princeton University Press

This chapter looks at fluorescence. Fluorescence does not make light. This misunderstanding comes in two ways. The first is a common misuse of terms. Historically, bioluminescence was often referred to as phosphorescence, and many people, even biologists, still consider the terms synonymous. Because phosphorescence is closely related to fluorescence, the latter term has joined the party and is also often used synonymously with bioluminescence. While this mislabeling is ubiquitous, it is less pernicious than another misunderstanding, in which, while it is accepted that fluorescence is not bioluminescence, it is still believed that fluorescence makes light. Fluorescence can never make light, it can only take it away. Moreover, fluorescence cannot add more optical energy to the system.

Keywords:   fluorescence, light, bioluminescence, phosphorescence, optical energy

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